Friday, January 15, 2010
Under the Dome
That was 20 years ago and now, Under the Dome is my 41st Stephen King novel. Guess you can say that I liked that first one back then. Some of them have been masterpieces (The Stand, The Green Mile, etc) while others have been downright stinkeroos (The Tommyknockers). I am happy to report that Under the Dome is far closer to the top end than the bottom and in fact I would go so far as to say it is in the top 5 Stephen King novels so far. He reportedly began writing this novel more than 30 years ago but gave it up due to its complexity and shear scope. In 2007 he took it up again and charged ahead to completion, resulting in another very successful novel.
The idea is fairly simple: a transparent and completely indestructable dome has appeared over a small town in Maine, allowing nothing to get through either way. The people inside are trapped while those outside are helpless to provide assistance. About a week goes by over the course of the novel. Part of the resulting story deals with the mystery of just what this dome is and how did it get to be there but the far larger aspects of the story deal with how people react when faced with this situation. I read an interview once where Mr King was asked about his favorite authors and influences and which novel would he have most liked to have written. He replied, Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This book, I think, is Stephen King's version of Lord of the Flies.
Stephen King is at his best with his interacting characters, whether they be smart, religious, rich, poor, or fools. He has long recognized that the most real horror is the kind of horror that real people inflict upon one another when they are desperate. There are no monsters or demons in this book except those of the very real human being variety. As the novel unfolds, the situation gets more and more desperate and the members of the town have to choose sides. One of the best bad guys Stephen King has ever produced, "Big Jim" Renny, makes his debut here. He is ultimately just a bully, but he is a smart, far thinking, master manipulator as well. I just love an intelligent, well written bad guy.
This is a long book though and I will admit to times when I was wishing it was a tad shorter. Mr King includes a huge cast of characters which can become burdensome if left in less capable hands. But to his credit, once I had completed the book I was able to look back at the long list of characters provided at the beginning and know every single one of them. Even though the point of view character keeps switching all over the place, (including to a family dog!), Mr King has a way of reminding us just who the person is, very subtely, but enough to keep the reader on track. I also enjoyed they very handy map of the town which really helped keep track of what was going on as the week under the dome unfolded. Marvelous job!
This morning, I completed the second short story in Jeffrey Archer's collection, Cat O'Nine Tales, "Maestro". This was a straight forward story about an Italian restauranteur who had to serve time in jail for failing to pay all of his taxes. Once again this was another story based in truth and told to Mr Archer while he, himself, was incarcerated. The nice twist in this one was the revelation that the protagonist was able to find a new, sneaky way of hiding his income which is still in practice today. Mr Archer is a story teller first and foremost. His prose is heavy on the "telling" not the "showing" or the dialogue, thus his short stories tend to be like sitting around a campfire and listening to a story...very enjoyable.
Next up: John Jakes' Savannah: Or a Gift for Mr Lincoln.
Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)
- "The Stand" by Stephen King
- "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
- "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
- "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
- "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
- "River God" by Wilbur Smith
- "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
- "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
- "Centennial" by James A Michener
- "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson